Australia should not only emulate France by making contraception free for all women under 25, but make it free for all women, according to Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).
In France from next year, those under 25 would not be charged for medical appointments, tests, or other medical procedures related to birth control. For the past eight years, contraception for 15- to 18-year-olds has been free, leading to a fall in the abortion rate.
France introduced the measure because of declining usage of birth control. The main reason cited was that it cost too much.
SPA National President Ms Jenny Goldie says there is still an unmet need for contraception in Australia.
“There is ignorance about methods of contraception other than the Pill, condoms and vasectomies. The uptake of Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive methods (LARCs) is slow, partly because of this ignorance and partly because of cost.”
LARCs include Intrauterine devices (IUDs) – small, T-shaped devices that are put into the uterus to prevent pregnancy, and implants – a thin, matchstick-sized plastic rod inserted under the skin of the upper arm.
“The cost of an IUD can be quite prohibitive, especially for the young,” says Ms Goldie. “Making all contraception free for not just the under-25s but for all women would remove the cost obstacle.
“The cost to government of free contraceptives would be more than off-set by saved costs in providing children with health, education and welfare.
“Globally, 190 million women have an unmet need for family planning, that is, they want to avoid pregnancy and do not use any contraceptive method, either modern or traditional.
“We must be mindful of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.7, which calls on countries ‘by 2030, to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.’
“Australia must fulfil its international obligations and lift spending for family planning within its Overseas Development Aid (ODA) Budget. It is particularly important because Covid has disrupted supply and distribution of contraceptives in some countries.”